A faction of Senate Democrats has urged President Biden to keep the 14th Amendment as an option while navigating discussions about the debt ceiling with House Republicans.
Recent days have seen a more optimistic tone in the standoff over the debt limit, with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reporting some progress, albeit modest, in their negotiations.
However, as the Senate adjourns for a recess, a group of Democrats remains cautious about striking a deal with McCarthy. They warned on Thursday that approving the House-approved proposal would be as damaging as defaulting on debt and encouraged President Biden to prepare a contingency plan.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking at a news conference alongside lawmakers who support invoking the 14th Amendment if necessary, emphasized their readiness to jeopardize the entire economy unless the president acquiesces to their demands. ”
The president has the constitutional authority to ensure that we continue to meet our financial obligations,” Sanders stated.
These Democrats criticized legislation passed by House Republicans last month, which would raise the debt limit in exchange for spending cuts that would, in part, reverse some of Biden’s major legislative accomplishments.
Although the White House has promised to veto the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has stated that it has no prospects in the Senate, Biden’s recent willingness to negotiate has opened the door to some elements of the GOP’s proposal.
Biden had previously refused to engage in debt ceiling negotiations with McCarthy. However, his stance has softened in recent days due to the urgency of avoiding default. It should be noted that the negotiations are focused on the budget rather than raising the debt ceiling.
The group of Democrats emphasized that McCarthy’s limited capacity to negotiate within his party, compounded by his recent speakership battle, which resulted in concessions to far-right members, might make it nearly impossible to reach a deal that doesn’t compromise climate priorities or burden low-income Americans.
Therefore, they view invoking the 14th Amendment as a necessary backup plan.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts expressed confidence in President Biden’s negotiating abilities but lacked faith in Speaker McCarthy and right-wing House Republicans.
The House Freedom Caucus, on the other hand, officially adopted the House-passed legislation and called on McCarthy to use all available tools to ensure it becomes law, rejecting any attempts to dilute it.
Regarding the 14th Amendment, President Biden mentioned in last week’s debt limit talks that he had considered using it to continue issuing debt without raising the limit. However, he expressed doubts about its effectiveness, citing the likelihood of legal challenges and the ultimate need for an extension.
Nonetheless, a group of nearly a dozen senators, including Sanders and Markey, wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to keep the 14th Amendment option on the table, acknowledging that while not perfect, it represents the best available solution.
Senate Majority Leader Schumer expressed optimism on Thursday that a bipartisan approach to the debt limit issue is still possible, emphasizing the shared recognition that allowing the country to default would be catastrophic.
Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated the White House’s position during a briefing on Thursday while President Biden was abroad, placing the responsibility to raise the debt ceiling squarely on Congress and reiterating that “Congress must take action to prevent default.”